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Losing sight of the consequences of 'less-lethal' weapons

A number of Palestinian children have lost some or all of their sight in the past year as a result of Israeli crowd control measures. Rights group appeals to the attorney general.

A Palestinian youth displays a block sponge-tipped bullet shot by Israeli police near the Shuafat Refugee Camp in East Jerusalem, November 7, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A Palestinian youth displays a block sponge-tipped bullet shot by Israeli police near the Shuafat Refugee Camp in East Jerusalem, November 7, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

Following a series of shootings by Israeli security forces which have caused Palestinian minors to lose all or part of their eyesight, Zakariya Julani, a 13-year-old boy from Shuafat refugee camp, lost his left eye after being shot in the head by a Border Police officer last Tuesday. As with most of the other children before him, Julani had been struck by a 40mm black sponge-tipped bullet, designed to be a non-lethal form of riot control but which has caused a drastic surge in injuries —and at least one death — since its introduction in July 2014. These bullets replaced blue sponge-tipped bullets, which were lighter and therefore less harmful.

Junari is at least the fifth minor to suffer a severe eye injury in this way since last summer [Heb]. On July 27, 2014, a 14-year-old boy was shot in the face with a sponge-tipped bullet near Bab al-Hura, in Jerusalem’s Old City, suffering a fractured eye socket and a brain hemorrhage.

On August 1, Ala Hamdan, a 14-year-old girl, was shot in the face by a sponge-tipped bullet while standing at the second-floor window of her family home in Issawiya, East Jerusalem. She required stitches, and was left with damaged eyesight.

On November 13, an 11-year-old boy, Salah Suleiman, was also shot in the face with a sponge-tipped bullet, losing one eye and damaging the eyesight in his second eye. He is now in danger of going completely blind.

A day later, 10-year-old Mayar Amran Twafic al-Natsheh was hit in the face by a rubber-coated steel bullet while in the car with her family, while driving near Shuafat refugee camp at the time of the attack. According to witnesses, the bullet came through the window of the car and struck al-Natsheh, leaving her with a fractured skull (the fate of her eyesight is unclear).

Israeli police with black sponge-tipped bullets in East Jerusalem, November 12, 2014. (Photo: Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

Israeli police with black sponge-tipped bullets in East Jerusalem, November 12, 2014. (Photo: Faiz Abu Rmeleh/Activestills.org)

 

On December 24, 2014, a neighbor of Suleiman’s, 5-year-old Mohammed Jamal Obeid, was shot in the face with a rubber-coated bullet after getting off his school bus in Issawiya, suffering damage to his eyesight.

At the beginning of March, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) contacted Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino and the Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to request an immediate halt to the use of sponge-tipped bullets by the Israeli Police until a full investigation into their safety had been conducted. The petition cited the proliferation of injuries caused by sponge-tipped bullets, including two fractured jaws and a ruptured spleen in addition to the cases listed above. This followed ACRI’s letter in October to the Jerusalem district commander of the Israel Police, about the disproportionate use of force in Issawiya, which had been subjected to prolonged and severe collective punishment by Israeli security forces.

The litany of grievous injuries to both minors and adults at the hands of the Israeli Police and other security forces is indicative of their improper use of firearms, either because officers are intentionally using them irregularly, or because they are insufficiently accurate to be used without causing accidental casualties in densely-populated, built-up areas.

Certainly, that Israeli security forces on both sides of the Green Line have a track record of taking pot shots at Palestinians not engaged in any kind of violent activity, whether in a conflict situation or not, speaks to a ‘trigger-happy’ mentality which will continue to cause death and injury to Palestinian civilians unless  the underlying attitudes dictating such behavior are addressed.

Furthermore, the reluctance of the police to publish their rules of engagement means that disproportionate violence by officers is difficult to address legally (a situation that ACRI has been working to overturn). It also recently transpired that the new black sponge-tipped bullets were in use for over six months before training on their use was conducted and regulations were issued — the same six-month period that saw them cause such a large number of serious injuries.

The lack of transparency facilitates the lack of accountability, and as long as individuals in an over-armed and under-regulated set of security forces continue to lose their heads, innocent Palestinians will continue to lose their eyes — and their lives.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Pedro X

      We were having a riot.

      In Canada when we say we are having a riot, we usually mean we are having a good time. We might be partying at the beach or in a parking lot before the football game. Impromptu parties break out at folk and fringe festivals. I once happened to stumble upon a riot of a party on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River in Saskatoon. We were chomping on some buffalo burgers, sipping some Black beers and listening to aging punk rockers playing tunes of the 60s and 70s at significantly upbeat tempos. It was like listening to Metallica playing Charlie Parker on speed. It was a riot, yet no one got hit by a rock or a Molotov Cocktail or got shot.

      Israelis like Canadians like to party but if an Israeli says they are having a riot it probably means Palestinians have sent their youth and children into the street to do violence and substantial damage. The Palestinian mosque, media and school all encourage their children and youth to violently engage the Israeli forces. The police or IDF never know how violent the riots may be. Rioters often pose significant risks to the police and Israeli public. Rioters take enormous risks to do harm to Israelis and the police sent to quell the rioters.

      The aftermath of the kidnapping and murder of 3 Israeli and 1 Arab youths in the summer of 2014 saw an upswing in Palestinian attacks and riots and the intensity of them. Palestinians murdered and injured many Israelis before the end of 2014. Worshipers were hacked to death in a Synagogue. Pedestrians were killed. People were stabbed ridding on buses. A young baby was run over and killed among other Israelis on a train platform. Cars, buses, the light rail train cars and individual Israelis were subject to all sorts of attacks, hundreds and thousands of attacks.

      The Israeli police needed to up their response to the Palestinian violence instead of waiting for the third intifada. Upping the force and damage capability of rubber bullets was very much warranted. The police response since the end of 2014 has limited the violence of the Palestinians. If the Palestinians want to raise the temperature of the conflict, maybe they should act like adults, leave their kids at home and attack the IDF on a battlefield where civilians will not be injured.

      Reply to Comment
      • eevie

        This is nothing but pure zionist propaganda. Talking so glibly about your food and beer and children are being slaughtered by the evil zionist regime running israhell.

        Reply to Comment
        • Pedro X

          Unlike Canadians and Israelis, Palestinians willingly send their children into harm’s way.

          Instead of apologizing for her child’s heinous crime, the mother of one of the two terrorists shot dead after killing 5 worshipers in Jerusalem in 2014 was reported as saying:

          “We feel agony and pain” losing a child,

          but we ululate – sound a cry of joy –

          “because our child is going to Heaven

          to marry the Dark-Eyed Virgins”

          She could say that because she was raised in a Palestinian culture that sees violence against Israel worth the sacrifice of their children and their reward for killing Jews, heaven and 72 virgins. During the second intifada the Palestinian media ran hundreds of times promotions for mothers sacrificing their children for the Palestinian cause:

          “How sweet is Martyrdom (Shahada),
          when I am embraced by you, my land!
          My beloved, my mother, most dear to me,
          be joyous over my blood, don’t cry for me.”

          Just lately on March 31, 2015 on PA TV broadcast:

          A Martyr’s mother: “We say ‘praise Allah’ for everything. It’s our duty to give ourselves and our children. Praise Allah, it’s true that this hurts and that we feel agony and pain. Today, every day and every moment, I miss my son. I’ll never forget my son. It’s true what they say that we ululate (i.e., make sounds of joy) for our [dead] children because our child is going to Heaven to marry the Dark-Eyed Virgins, Allah willing.”

          So it is not surprising Palestinian children are on the front lines of violent riots and get hurt. It is expected of them, as a duty to their religion and the struggle.

          Reply to Comment
      • Baladi Akka 1948

        This Canadian guy who’s first or second to comment on most articles on 972mag is a full-time member (paid or voluntary ?) of the International Hasbara.

        Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        Quite patently this is not about quelling riots – did you even read the report? “Ala Hamdan, a 14-year-old girl, was shot in the face by a sponge-tipped bullet while standing at the second-floor window of her family home …. 10-year-old Mayar Amran Twafic al-Natsheh was hit in the face by a rubber-coated steel bullet while in the car with her family … 5-year-old Mohammed Jamal Obeid, was shot in the face with a rubber-coated bullet after getting off his school bus”. The collective punishment you advocate (“Upping the force and damage capability of rubber bullets was very much warranted”) is of utterly illegal in international law (not that you care a jot about that) but also utterly immoral. It is people like you that give Zionism, Fascism and Xenophobia a bad name.

        Reply to Comment
        • Pedro X

          Who lets a five year old child off a bus in the middle of a violent rally? Palestinians.

          During violent riots sometimes persons, including children, on the periphery of the riots might get hurt. This does not erase the fact that violent riots were ongoing. This does not erase the fact that Israelis were being killed and injured. This does not erase the fact that the police’s aim was to quell the riots and attacks and restore public peace. Commentators were calling the rioting and attacks the start of the Jerusalem intifada.

          Palestinian supporters like to call any police action to quell violence collective punishment. Yet the rioters collectively gathered to do violence and injury. If the Palestinians did not violently riot, the police would not have to use measures to quell their violent riot, which at law, both domestic and international, they have a right and obligation to do so.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Who lets “hilltop youths” run violently amok? Who does that? You, a settler, are appealing to international law? What kind of people arrogate to themselves the right to defy the law and human decency and flout justice for going on 50 years?

            Reply to Comment
    2. Simon LeBon

      Fascinating stuff!

      Reply to Comment
      • phil

        I know I must be stupid, but it’s taken me this long to realise that the X in Pedro X stands for XENOPHOBE

        Of course, to him the killing of palestinian children is the fault of their parents forced to live under a military occupation

        Strangely, when he harps on about the fogel or the pass family, he fails to mention that these people chose to live as illegal colonists and moved their children into the firing line

        From my perspective, the killing of any innocent is a loss to the world.. but Pedro needs to check their skin colour before deciding

        Reply to Comment